In The News

3.25.21

Partner Sarah Evans is chair of nonprofit Friends of Balboa Park, and has been at the helm of merger discussions with the Balboa Park Conservancy for many months. The two organizations are slated to merge effective July 1 to leverage each organization’s strengths, combine resources and expertise, as well as enhance support for Balboa Park through fundraising, advocacy, projects and programs. Sarah was quoted in today's UT discussing the topic, read more.

1.20.21

We are thrilled to count another victory for our client - an individual terminated from his position and accused of breaching his fiduciary duties and misappropriation trade secrets. SSCE maintained he was wrongfully terminated to avoid paying contractual severance, and attorneys Ross Schwartz and John Schena aggressively litigated the client's claims. They successfully transferred the action from Nevada to California and pursued novel legal theories until the matter resolved in our client's favor for more than $4.5 million in a non-confidential settlement. Congratulations to our team for another job well done advocating for a client!

1.19.21

Partner Sarah Evans will be a panelist on Strafford Webinars, "Discovery Requests in Employment Litigation" on January 21st. This CLE webinar will guide employment litigators in drafting discovery requests that are likely to survive heightened judicial scrutiny under Rule 26(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The panel will also discuss strategies for objecting to discovery requests that are overly burdensome in a specific manner and producing documents and electronically stored information (ESI) in a timely manner as required by amended Rule 34(b).

1.12.21

Attorneys Kevin Cauley and Kristen Bush are presenting the Associated Subcontractors Alliance annual legal update on January 13th. They will highlight recent cases and 2021 laws likely to impact the construction industry, new licensing requirements related to remodeling contrators and renewals, new laws related to public works projects, employer responsibilities relating to COVID-19, changes to family leave and pay data report requirements.

1.8.21

Schwartz Semerdjian Wins Defamation Ruling Favors Former City Council Members, Client Developer

In what is expected to be a landmark decision, a state appeals court agreed with a local judge who handed victories to two former city council members and a Schwartz Semerdjian developer client in their defamation cases against a former Solana Beach City Council candidate and his campaign manager.

The 4th District Court of Appeal and San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan M. Lewis each now have ruled that former Solana Beach City Council members Lesa Heebner and Mike Nichols and developer/client Joseph Balla were maliciously defamed by former Solana Beach City Council candidate Edward Siegel and his campaign manager, Brian Hall.

Hall wrote malicious emails and letters under fake names and sent them to numerous local news outlets, some of whom published the letters online and in print, and also sent them to elected officials throughout the county, public agencies and others.

"Defendant Edward Siegel was an unsuccessful candidate for the Solana Beach City Council in 2016," the Court of Appeal wrote in its January 6 ruling. "During and after the City Council campaign, Siegel's campaign manager, defendant Brian Hall, sent a letter to the editor, distributed emails to local government and media, and posted Facebook messages about City Council members Lesa Heebner and Mike Nichols, and their relationship with local developer Joseph Balla. Primarily using a fictional person he created, 'Andrew Jones,' Hall asserted or implied that Heebner and Nichols lobbied for the North County Transit District (NCTD) to select Balla for a Solana Beach train station project in exchange for Balla giving them design work on the project and directing a charitable donation to a nature conservancy they supported."

The court continued:  "Hall appealed, contending the trial court erred by denying his motions...In essence, his position is that his publications were political opinions about a conflict of interest and not actionable. We disagree. Although political speech is appropriately accorded wide latitude, especially in election campaigns, calculated or reckless falsehoods can still amount to defamation even in that context. The record reflects that at the time of the publications, Hall knew or at least consciously disregarded the fact that Heebner and Nichols had no role in the NCTD selection process and the NCTD had no agreement with Balla." As the court indicated, the case stems from letters to the editor and a series of emails and social media posts that circulated publicly during and after Siegel's failed city coucil bid. The communications were drafted by Hall but published under fake names.

Partner Dick Semerdjian, attorney for Balla, said:  "Judge Lewis saw those letters for what they were - blatant and malicious attempts to smear my client. Defamation cases are not easily won but in this case the evidence was overwhelming. I expect this case will be cited for years to come in courtrooms across the state in cases which involve reckless and untrue statements guised as 'polital speech' in election campaigns."

Click here to continue reading the Court of Appeal ruling.